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The Importance of a Good Start

The first ten games of the season often reflect the end result, good or bad.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There are 82 games in the NBA regular the season, the first of the 2017-18 season is today. The Memphis Grizzlies first game is tomorrow versus the New Orleans Pelicans. With 82 games to trek through, there is plenty of time between now and April, enough time to overcome long losing streaks and close gaps towards the playoffs.

But I’m not here to argue that the Grizzlies will yet again make the playoffs. This is about starting the season the right way.

And what is the right way, you ask?

Winning.

Let’s take a look at the under-promoted playoff appearance streak that the Grizz have currently. Seven seasons in a row Memphis has made the Western Conference Playoffs. The first ten games of each season are a pretty accurate reflection of how the season ends, with a few exceptions.

Memphis Grizzlies

Season First 10 Games Season Record Season Result
Season First 10 Games Season Record Season Result
2016-17 5-5 43-39 L to SAS 1st Round
2015-16 4-6 42-40 L to SAS 1st Round
2014-15 9-1 55-27 L to GSW Semis
2013-14 5-5 50-32 L to OKC 1st Round
2012-13 8-2 56-26 L to SAS Conf. Finals
2011-12 4-6 41-25 L to LAC 1st Round
2010-11 4-6 46-36 L to OKC Semis

I’ll highlight four specific seasons.

Of course, the most successful Grizzlies season to date is the 2012-13 campaign. That season produced the best record in franchise history, and the only appearance in the Western Conference Finals. That campaign ended with a heartbreaking sweep by the annoyingly awesome San Antonio Spurs, though two of the four games went to overtime.

Long story short, the Grizzlies started 8-2 through the first ten games, and 14-3 in the first 17. The tone that was set from the first three weeks of the season echoed until late May. The confidence was evident and was maintained the whole season.

Two seasons later the Grizzlies faced Golden State in the Western Conference Semi-finals. Memphis was a severe underdog, and rightly so, but put up a fight that Golden State was not expecting. That season started 9-1 through the first ten games. The final series ended in a 4-2 series win by the Warriors, but recorded the second most successful season in franchise history.

The 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons were the two best starts in team history and also recorded the two best records in team history. Coincidence? I think not.

The same is true in reverse. The two least productive Memphis seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17) were hamstringed by rough starts. Let me also make a note that the 2015-16 team set a record for most players used on a roster because of the injury plague.

Regardless, those teams started poorly and ended poorly in the playoffs. Last season the Grizz made some noise against the Spurs, but in reality, they didn’t really have a chance. The year before the Spurs brought brooms and swept the Grizz without even breaking a sweat. (In game two, the Grizzlies scored 68 points.)

So now we should all agree that a solid start is imperative to a successful season. Let’s take a look at this year’s schedule through the first season.

Memphis Grizzlies

Date Opponent
Date Opponent
Wed. Oct 18 vs. New Orleans
Sat. Oct 21 vs. Golden State
Mon. Oct 23 @ Houston
Wed. Oct 25 @ Dallas
Thu. Oct 26 vs. Dallas
Sat. Oct 28 vs. Houston
Mon. Oct 30 vs. Charlotte
Wed. Nov 1 vs. Orlando
Sat. Nov 4 @ LA Clippers
Sun. Nov 5 @ LA Lakers

I’ll start by saying if Memphis can stay above .500 through this first stretch, this could a surprisingly optimistic season. Houston, the Warriors in Memphis, and a back-to-back in LA versus the Clippers and Lakers. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there is a home-and-home against Dallas, an easy home match-up with Orlando and a quality Eastern Conference home game against Charlotte.

The schedule gets easier after the first ten through the month of November aside from two more games against Houston. Since most of the NBA world is picking the Grizzlies to miss the playoffs (not surprising), whatever the result the first 10-game stint is, it will not make headlines. But as history shows for this team, a fast start in the right direction is imperative to once again beat the odds placed on this season.

Glass half full, there is 82 games in the season, so there’s always a shot for the Grizzlies to conjure up some type of successful scheme to keep them relevant in playoff conversations. Oh and let’s all acknowledge that this is the best time of the year.

Follow @sbngrizzlies